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LETTERS TO THE YOUTH OF BOTH SEXES IN THE
The Duties, Uses, and Blessings of Public Worship. MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS,
In my previous letter I endeavoured to shew you the necessity of being instructed in the knowledge of Truth. To form a true idea of God is of infinite moment, as this idea is the basis and the source of all true religion and of all genuine philosophy. In the endeavour to form this true IDEA of God, as explained in my last letter, you will probably be met with the cry of mystery, and it will be said that the trinity is so mysterious a subject, that it infinitely transcends human intellect, and that it is highly presumptuous to endeavour to understand it. This is no doubt true in reference to the Trinity of three Persons as commonly believed, for this is not a “mystery of the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt xiii. 11.) but it is a mystery of the kingdom of darkness. (Rev. xvii. 5.) The former mysteries can be understood, but not the latter, because there is no truth and no rationality connected with such mysteries of darkness. Hence the Lord says—“To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” It is, therefore, our privilege and our great duty to understand the mystery of the Trinity, since without a knowledge of this subject we cannot possibly form a true idea of God. For of all the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven this is no doubt the principal, and the Lord expressly states, " that to His disciples it is given to know this mystery." And, indeed, this mystery is sublimely rational, and is brought out from the Scriptures in the doctrines of the New Church in a manner easily comprehended by all who sincerely love the Truth.
I also endeavoured to shew to you, in my last address, the necessity of forming a correct idea of the Christian life,—of that life which we must live in order to be saved in eternity, and to be truly happy in this world, securing the respect, confidence, and love of our fellow-men. All religion has relation to life, and the life of religion consists in “ceasing to do evil and learning to do well." Unless this be the universal principle of our life, all our assumptions of holiness will be but an external deception, and all our professions of faith will be but as " a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." I therefore exhorted you, my dear young friends, to read often Swedenborg's little work on the
LETTERS TO THE YOUTH OF BOTH SEXES IN THE NEW CHURCH.
“Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem.” The small work by Mr. Clowes on the “ Christian Temper,” &c. will, in addition, tend to elevate, soften, and refine all the sentiments and feelings of your daily life, and introduce into your conduct the angelic influences of the heavenly state. Mr. Mason's “ Help to Devotion,” &c., which I earnestly recommend you to add to your practical and devotional library, will deepen the sentiments of piety, enable you to “pray with understanding,” and to form grand conceptions of the spiritual and heavenly, or truly Christian life. Nearly every sentence in this useful Manual of Devotion is an expansion of some great truth from the Word, and an application of its light and efficacy to the springs, motives, and affections of the mind. The questions for self-examination are also admirably adapted to search out the secret springs of action in the heart, and to improve the life. I would advise you, my young friends, to take a few of these questions every day, as a means of examining your states of life. This would be a most blessed habit, which would guard you against many dangers, and strengthen you in many temptations, and awaken in your hearts a deeper sense of love and duty to the Lord and your neighbour. *
But my immediate object in this letter is to speak to you on the Duties, Uses, and Blessings of Public Worship. In doing this I shall commence with an extract, out of many that might be selected from Swedenborg on this subject :
“Man, during his abode in the world, ought not to omit the practice of external worship; for by external worship things internal are excited, and by external worship things external are kept in a state of sanctity, so that internal things can flow in ; moreover, man is hereby imbued with knowledges, and prepared to receive things celestial ; he is also gifted with states of sanctity, though he be ignorant thereof, which states are preserved by the Lord for his use in eternal life ; for in another life all man's states of life return.”-A.C. 1618.
Swedenborg here points out the duties and uses of public worship. These duties cannot be neglected without incurring the greatest dangers to our conscience, our comfort, and peace here, and to our eternal happiness hereafter. Man without religion is, as to his spirit, “ wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked ;” that is, he is destitute of all things good and true, and his life is merely carnal,
* The writer begs to state, that New Church literature is already well supplied with works of a most instructive and edifying tendency. Besides those mentioned above there are several others, by Mr. Clowes ;-On Delights, &c.;—The Twelve Hours of the Day, &c. ;-On Mediums, &c. ;-On Opposites, &c. Also by the late Rey. Thos. Goyder, Spiritual Reflections for Every Day in the Year.
which is "enmity against God.” Such is the state of man without religion. He cannot be truly honest and upright in his dealings and conduct; he cannot be chaste and pure in his thoughts and intentions; he cannot be sincere in his professions and engagements, without religion. A sinister motive lurks within, and a selfish disposition controuls his mind. He is consequently not to be trusted by his neighbour, and no confidence can be reposed in his words and declarations. No social compact, no disinterested friendship, no genuine love can exist between man and man, but by the power of religion, which opens the interior and spiritual principles of the mind to receive what is Good and TRUE from the Lord, and therewith Faith, Charity, and every saving grace and virtue. “A man can receive nothing (good) except it be given him from heaven." (John iii. 27.) But religion is the great medium of good to man; it opens heaven to his soul; it brings him into consociation with angels, and into conjunction wiih the Lord.
Now religion cannot exist without means, the adequate, vigorous employment of which is indispensable to its existence. Nothing can be effected but by means ; the Lord accomplishes His divine ends and purposes universally by means. In forming the atom, and in creating the globe, means, wonderfully adapted to the end, are always employed. In forming man anew, and in making him a new creature,” means are equally indispensable. Religion is the aggregate of these means. The great medium through which religion derives all its resources from the Lord is the WORD. Its divine truths are the only efficient means by which religion can exist, and by which every heavenly good can be secured and enjoyed. Here solely is the "spirit and life," without which religion is but an empty name, and faith a mere “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." But to acquire truths from the Word, means are again necessary. The ability to read divine Truth is now being imparted to every child of man. But the public and private worship of the Lord is an especial means, which is divinely appointed to realize the divine purposes of Christianity, of implanting things spiritual and heavenly in the mind.
“By external worship things internal are excited." Here is a signal use of public worship; the life of religion is properly internal and spiritual. This life requires to be awakened, excited, brought into activity ; but external worship is a means to this end ; hence external worship is of infinite importance to man. In proportion to the activity of our internal spiritual life, our regeneration is accomplished, our conscience is quickened with a peculiar sensitiveness to what is good, and acquires a keener relish for divine and spiritual things. Evil, in
all its forms, becomes more loathsome to the internal sense, and is held in greater abhorrence and dread. As the life of the spiritual man increases, that of the external decreases. The divine saying, “ He must increase, but I must decrease," has also its individual application to man. Every internal will have its corresponding external ; this is a universal law; we behold it everywhere in nature; no internal principle can exist but in its external form. Without an external it evaporates and expires.
How greatly, therefore, are those mistaken, who imagine that they can have the internals of worship, and, at the same time, neglect the externals of worship! We know how odious in the sight of God all external worship is without an internal. The prayers of such a worship, instead of being like incense—“the prayers of the saints,"
“ like the smoke out of a chimney.” (Hosea xiii. 3.) But because the odiousness of external worship without an internal spiritual principle of religion, is so clearly shewn to the members of the New Church, we must not therefore rush to the opposite extreme, and consider external worship of little or of no account. This would be a great mistake, and a great evil. It is a universal law of order that action and reaction are required to produce any result. This is true in reference to things spiritual as well as to things natural; no idea can be produced without action from within, and reaction from without. No spiritual principle, and no heavenly blessing, can be so realized as to become the conscious possession and enjoyment of man, without an action from within, in the internal, and a reaction from without, in the external man.
In proportion as the reaction in the external is in correspondence and harmony with the action from within, a blessed result is the consequence. The life from the Lord in the internal, then becomes the life of the external also, and man becomes "spiritually minded, which is life and peace.” Now this salutary reaction is greatly promoted by attending to the duties of external worship. Piety, which is the general plain of celestial and spiritual things, is thereby promoted and strengthened. Habits of piety (says Swedenborg) keep “things external in states of sanctity, so that internal or spiritual things can flow into external or natural things,” and establish heaven in the life of man,
But habits of piety are greatly strengthened by attending to the duties of private and public worship. If these duties are neglected, the world, as a canker, will soon rust, corrupt, and consume every heavenly disposition in the mind; the soul will be benumbed with the chill of spiritual death, and all religion will expire. Man will then cease to act from an internal principle ; he will come into that
Nebuchadnezzar-state in which, spiritually, “ his hairs will grow like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws," and he will take up his abode amongst the beasts of the field, that is, he will be reduced to a merely sensual and corporeal state.
All things pertaining to salvation are in their nature eminently social, that is, they can be enjoyed chiefly in association with others. These saving things are of general participation and of powerful sympathy. It is not in the closet, nor in the solitude, but “ on Zion, whither the tribes go up, that the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” The Lord does not teach us to address Him
my Father," but as our Father, who art in the heavens," &c., to denote that he is the Father of all the faithful who, when gathered together in His name, experience that He is in the midst of them. The religious association is the highest into which men can enter with one another; it is that which prepares them for spiritual consociation in heaven. There it is impossible to be isolated and alone; there every one finds that his happiness consists in consociating with others, and in imparting to them his intelligence and his joys. No one is there absent at the stated time from the public worship of the Lord. And on earth it is delightful to see the members of a church all assembled at the appointed time: a powerful sphere is thereby concentrated for the good of all; the sympathetic union of minds is greatly strengthened; states of holiness and reverence are more completely opened, and a sphere of sanctity is more operative and effective. Hence Swedenborg says in the extract adduced above, that the worshipper “is gifted with states of sanctity though he be ignorant thereof, which states are preserved by the Lord for his use in eternal life." Hence where there is any degree of unfeigned piety and sincerity in the public worship of the Lord, there are states of sanctity induced which contribute to man's good and happiness in eternity, Of course, those who neglect these priviliges, forfeit those states. The Lord is constantly present, and his blessings are always presented to our acceptance, whether we are engaged in public or private worship or not; but in order that we may become receptive of these blessings, we must present ourselves before the Lord, and ask of Him before we can receive them. This, divine order requires, otherwise no mutual or reciprocal relation can exist between the Lord and man. But what circumstances are more suitable for thus presenting ourselves before the Lord than in the performance of the duties of worship on the Sabbath?
The manner also in which we attend to these duties is of great importance. Some come into the house of prayer when the prayers are